Sunday, January 28, 2018

John Courtney Murray Discusses the hOMOOUSION Formula

These comments by John C. Murray (S.J.) are taken from his book The Problem of God (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1964, page 50). He is referring to the purported (as he thinks) contradiction that seems to arise from triune formulae:

"The hOMOOUSION resolves the seeming contradiction. If, as the hOMOOUSION asserts, the Son is all that the Father is, except for the Name of Father, then the Son is Pantokrator as the Father is, but he is not the Father. But here intelligence has reached its limit. The problem is solved, to the limits of solution. The mystery remains intact, adorable."

William Mounce-"Make Yourself God" (John 10:33)-Draft Version

1 Peter 3:15 encourages Christians to defend the faith with mildness and deep respect toward those who oppose Christianity (cf. 1 Peter 3:2). My approach is normally mildness and respect toward others: I don't like calling people names or putting down their abilities or intelligence. However, I must say that William Mounce's tone, stuffiness and rudimentary errors on one of his Greek Mondays got my attention. See

My comments: I am not a Greek grammarian or a noted NT scholar although I have a classical languages degree. Nevertheless, the errors committed by Mounce are clear to me.

1) John 10:33 reads (WH): ἀπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι Περὶ καλοῦ ἔργου οὐ λιθάζομέν σε ἀλλὰ περὶ βλασφημίας, καὶ ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν.

Mounce claims that the Jews wanted to stone Jesus because the Son of God asserted that he and the Father are one (John 10:30). In 10:33, his listeners accuse him of blasphemy, ὅτι σὺ ἄνθρωπος ὢν ποιεῖς σεαυτὸν θεόν.

Mounce writes: "The Jewish response shows clearly that Jesus was making a claim to be God, the God, Yahweh."

For the sake of argument, even if we assume that Jesus was claiming to be God (Yahweh or Jehovah), it's by no means "clearly" shown that he was undertaking this action when we read the Jewish reply since there are other ways to understand the response, even if one is a Trinitarian. We don't have to infer that Jesus was claiming divine prerogatives. In fact, Novatian of Rome concluded that John 10:30 demonstrates the Son may be "God," but he is still the Father's inferior. See De Trinitate XXVII.16ff. Tertullian's understanding of the verse is also noteworthy.

2) Mounce continues: "First of all, 'a god' is highly interpretive. Anyone who knows Greek knows that there is no indefinite article, 'a.'"

I find two surprising utterances in this sentence. Firstly, Mounce has to know that "a god" is a possible translation--not "highly interpretive--for the anarthrous θεόν at 10:33. Compare 1 Kings 18:27: ἐπικαλεῖσθε ἐν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ὅτι θεός ἐστιν. Secondly, while there may be no indefinite article in Greek, we sometimes use one anyway when translating Greek as the famous example of Acts 28:6 illustrates. Compare "a god" for that verse in NIV, ESV, NASB, NET, KJV, and more.

3) Another observation sallied forth by Mounce: "Secondly, these are Jews speaking, who do not have a concept of multiple 'god[s]'; if Jesus claimed to be a pagan deity, one among many, we would expect a different response."

It is less than clear what Mounce possibly means by the Jews not possessing a concept of many gods. If he means that they were not conceptually aware of other gods recognized/venerated by the nations, then he's starkly wrong. He probably means to say that the Jews understood references to "God" or a god as applicable to Yahweh (Jehovah). They would have interpreted Jesus to mean that he was Yahweh--not a competitor deity like the nations revered or some demigod. However, other scholars have rightly pointed out (in my estimation) that the Jews recognized existent deities who were subordinate to YHWH. That is to say, elohim or qeos could be applied to lesser beings like angels without breaching the unique oneness of God. Men were possibly given the appellation elohim too as we may find with human judges. See Ralph L. Smith, Old Testament Theology, page 232ff. Compare D.S. Russell, The Method and Message of Jewish Apocalyptic:

"There is ample evidence to show that [the OT] conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being, of God" (page 235).

Besides, who thinks Jesus would have claimed to be a pagan deity? He could have been calling attention to his divine qualities as a member of the elohim class. In a different vein, Charles C. Ryrie makes this pronouncement about the biblical use of elohim, writing that man is "lower than angels since they belong to a class of superhuman beings (elohim) who are stronger than man by nature and, unlike man, not subject to death" (Basic Theology, p. 127).

So John 10:33 could be translated "God," but I don't think that is the only possible translation or necessarily the default rendering.

4) After discussing object-complements, Mounce states: "So the default translation is, 'make yourself to be God.'"

How about "make yourself to be a god"? The rendering could be mistaken, but how Mounce can rule it out is beyond me. For the NEB translates 10:33, "You, a mere man, claim to be a god."

Compare John 19:7; Psalm 82:1-6; John 10:34-36.

Friday, January 26, 2018

John 3:13 in the MSS (Ralph Earle and Bruce Metzger)

With regard to John 3:13, translator Ralph Earle expresses this view: "This clause in the KJV is not found in any Greek manuscript earlier than the ninth century. We now have two papyrus manuscripts of John's Gospel from close to A.D. 200--only about 100 years after that Gospel was written (probably about A.D. 95). Also, both our great Greek manuscripts from the fourth century do not have it. It seems obvious that no reasonable-minded person would argue that this clause was in John's Gospel as originally written, when it is not in the third and fourth-century manuscripts that we have" (Word Meanings in the NT, p. 84).

For information on the aforementioned MSS, see Bruce Metzger's The Text of the NT (pp. 53f).


An opposing point of view is given by D.A. Black:

However, I do not find his argument all that compelling. See pages 64-66 of this dissertation:

Here is the NET Bible Note for this part of 3:13:

tc Most witnesses, including a few important ones (A[*] Θ Ψ 050 Ë1,13 Ï latt syc,p,h), have at the end of this verse “the one who is in heaven” (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, Jo wn en tw ouranw). A few others have variations on this phrase, such as “who was in heaven” (e syc), or “the one who is from heaven” (0141 pc sys). The witnesses normally considered the best, along with several others, lack the phrase in its entirety (Ì66,75 א B L T Ws 083 086 33 1241 pc co). On the one hand, if the reading ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is authentic it may suggest that while Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus he spoke of himself as in heaven even while he was on earth. If that is the case, one could see why variations from this hard saying arose: “who was in heaven,” “the one who is from heaven,” and omission of the clause. At the same time, such a saying could be interpreted (though with difficulty) as part of the narrator’s comments rather than Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, alleviating the problem. And if v. 13 was viewed in early times as the evangelist’s statement, “the one who is in heaven” could have crept into the text through a marginal note. Other internal evidence suggests that this saying may be authentic. The adjectival participle, ὁ ὤν, is used in the Fourth Gospel more than any other NT book (though the Apocalypse comes in a close second), and frequently with reference to Jesus (1:18; 6:46; 8:47). It may be looking back to the LXX of Exod 3:14 (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν). Especially since this exact construction is not necessary to communicate the location of the Son of Man, its presence in many witnesses here may suggest authenticity. Further, John uses the singular of οὐρανός (ourano", “heaven”) in all 18 instances of the word in this Gospel, and all but twice with the article (only 1:32 and 6:58 are anarthrous, and even in the latter there is significant testimony to the article). At the same time, the witnesses that lack this clause are very weighty and must not be discounted. Generally speaking, if other factors are equal, the reading of such mss should be preferred. And internally, it could be argued that ὁ ὤν is the most concise way to speak of the Son of Man in heaven at that time (without the participle the point would be more ambiguous). Further, the articular singular οὐρανός is already used twice in this verse, thus sufficiently prompting scribes to add the same in the longer reading. This combination of factors suggests that ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ is not a genuine Johannism. Further intrinsic evidence against the longer reading relates to the evangelist’s purposes: If he intended v. 13 to be his own comments rather than Jesus’ statement, his switch back to Jesus’ words in v. 14 (for the lifting up of the Son of Man is still seen as in the future) seems inexplicable. The reading “who is in heaven” thus seems to be too hard. All things considered, as intriguing as the longer reading is, it seems almost surely to have been a marginal gloss added inadvertently to the text in the process of transmission. For an argument in favor of the longer reading, see David Alan Black, “The Text of John 3:13,” GTJ 6 (1985): 49-66.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Philo Index: A Helpful Work for Philo Scholars

Check out The Philo Index: A Complete Greek Word Index to the Writings of Philo of Alexandria by Peder
Borgen (et al.). You can find out more about the book here:

Richard Young Offers Comments on the Granville Sharp Rule

Questions about the GS rule often come my way. Here is one perspective given concerning the famed rule.

On pp. 62-64 of his linguistic and exegetical grammar, Richard A. Young has a useful discussion of the Granville Sharp rule. Concerning his much discussed rule, Sharp stated:

"When the copulative KAI connects two nouns of the same case, if the article hO, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or decribed by the first noun or participle."

Of course there are possible exceptions to this rule such as plural elements, non-personal nouns and proper names.

One hotly disputed passage that involves Sharp's rule is Titus 2:13. Young comments on this passage:

"In Titus 2:13 the construction TOU MEGALOU QEOU KAI SWTHROS hHMWN (our great God and Savior) means that our savior, Jesus Christ, is God. Since both nouns refer to the same person, the pronoun 'our' modifies both nouns. To make it modify only the second tends to separate the nouns, 'the great God and our Savior"'(AV, Phillips). The NWT separates the two nouns even more, 'of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus.' This removes any thought of Christ being God. For other examples, see 2 Peter 1:1, 2:20 (Cf. Robertson 1977:61-68; Kuehne 1973-1974)" (Young 62-64).

Monday, January 22, 2018

Quote from Babylon the Great Has Fallen Book: A Personal Favorite

"Just as Jehovah's Shekinah light illuminated the Most Holy of the ancient tabernacle and temple, so his glory directly lights up the New Jerusalem. Ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River needed oil lamps for lighting at night; but, if there were any night around the heavenly New Jerusalem, the Lamb of God would be its lamp. This explains why 'the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to shine upon it.' But men on earth will need such lights. The invisible heavenly city will shed a spiritual light upon the inhabiters of the 'new earth.' A complete clarification of the Bible will be given to them, together with all the righteous, enlightening, guiding rules, laws and instructions that will be given to them. So the nations on earth, that is, those not of the 144,000 spiritual Israelites, will walk in the spiritual light coming from the city and will see how to walk in the way that leads to everlasting life without stumbling. All the families and nations of the earth will thus be blessed. — Genesis l2:3; 22:18."

"Babylon the Great Has Fallen", pages 660-1.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book Recommendation: Marian Hillar's "The Case of Michael Servetus"

I encourage you to read The Case of Michael Servetus: The Turning Point in the Struggle for Freedom of Conscience (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1997) written by Marian Hillar. This work is part of the Texts and Studies in Religion series. It is volume 74.

Hillar's book is well documented, being 426+ pp. But this study is costly with Amazon having a used copy for almost $400.00. See if you can obtain this study through interlibrary loan.

Hillar is mostly concerned with issues surrounding the freedom of conscience and religious coercion. He examines Servetus as a case example of how religion has tried to suppress individuals not considered orthodox by the majority.

The book is divided into three parts, it contains an appendix and has a select bibliography. I've found Hillar's study to be informative and helpful for learning more about antitrinitarianism, Socinianism, repression of freedoms and the case of Servetus.

While Hillar's examination of Servetus is generally well-written, there appear to be numerous typos in the book. Ergo, it could have probably been edited better. Hillar is an intelligent, deep thinking individual who is erudite and studious. However, his study contains some non-standard English, but I do not make this statement to demean his contribution in any way. I well know my own capability to employ non-standard English at times. All the more reason to enlist a good editor when one is composing an important scholarly contribution. In any event, Hillar's book is worth perusing

Thursday, January 18, 2018

De Trinitate Preface (Book II) by Augustine of Hippo

When men seek to know God, and bend their minds according to the capacity of human weakness to the understanding of the Trinity; learning, as they must, by experience, the wearisome difficulties of the task, whether from the sight itself of the mind striving to gaze upon light unapproachable, or, indeed, from the manifold and various modes of speech employed in the sacred writings (wherein, as it seems to me, the mind is nothing else but roughly exercised, in order that it may find sweetness when glorified by the grace of Christ);— such men, I say, when they have dispelled every ambiguity, and arrived at something certain, ought of all others most easily to make allowance for those who err in the investigation of so deep a secret. But there are two things most hard to bear with, in the case of those who are in error: hasty assumption before the truth is made plain; and, when it has been made plain, defense of the falsehood thus hastily assumed. From which two faults, inimical as they are to the finding out of the truth, and to the handling of the divine and sacred books, should God, as I pray and hope, defend and protect me with the shield of His good will, and with the grace of His mercy, I will not be slow to search out the substance of God, whether through His Scripture or through the creature.

Source: Translated by Arthur West Haddan. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. .

Picture Source: Thanks to

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Does the NIV Mistranslate Verses? Genesis 4:1 As a Test Case

A friend recently posted a long entry about the NIV's proclivity for mistranslation. Far be it from me to defend the NIV, but I like exploring translation issues and being fair to all parties involved. Therefore, I take Gen. 4:1 as a test case and this is one verse some insist is mistranslated in the NIV.

New International Version
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man."

New Living Translation
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, "With the LORD's help, I have produced a man!"

English Standard Version
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

New American Standard Bible
Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD."

King James Bible
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have had a male child with the LORD's help."

New World Translation 2013
Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant.a When she gave birth to Cain,b she said: “I have produced* a male child with the help of Jehovah.”

It has been contended that adding "help" as NIV does is unwarranted because that adds to what the Hebrew text actually states. Compare YLT for example. However, is the addition of this word a deliberate mistranslation? Not in my estimation because part of translation involves making things clear for one's receptor audience: translating is going from the source language to the receptor language. Producing a stilted "literal" translation may actually be misleading. Note how many translations above use the word "help." The fact is that "help" is an understood/implicit element of the utterance.

Cambridge Bible offers this explanation for why "help" might be used:

I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord] Literally, “I acquired (or, have acquired) man, even Jahveh.” Eve’s four words in the Hebrew (ḳânîthi îsh eth-Yahveh) are as obscure as any oracle.

(i) The difficulty was felt at a very early time, and is reflected in the versions LXX διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, Lat. per Deum, in which, as R.V., the particle êth is rendered as a preposition in the sense of “in conjunction with,” and so “with the help of,” “by the means of.”

König, who holds an eminent position both as a commentator and as a Hebrew grammarian and lexicographer, has recently strongly defended the rendering of êth as a preposition meaning “with,” in the sense here given by the English version “with the help of” (see Z.A.T.W. 1912, Pt i, pp. 22 ff.). The words will then express the thanksgiving of Eve on her safe deliverance of a child. It is a pledge of Divine favour. Child-birth has been “with the help of the Lord.”

(ii) The Targum of Onkelos reads mê-êth = “from” (instead of êth = “with”), and so gets rid of the difficulty: “I have gotten a man from Jehovah,” i.e. as a gift from the Lord. But this is so easy an alteration that it looks like a correction, and can scarcely be regarded as the original text. Praestat lectio difficilior.

From NET Bible:

tn Heb “with the Lord.” The particle אֶת־ (’et) is not the accusative/object sign, but the preposition “with” as the ancient versions attest. Some take the preposition in the sense of “with the help of” (see BDB 85 s.v. אֵת; cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV), while others prefer “along with” in the sense of “like, equally with, in common with” (see Lev 26:39; Isa 45:9; Jer 23:28). Either works well in this context; the latter is reflected in the present translation. Some understand אֶת־ as the accusative/object sign and translate, “I have acquired a man – the Lord.” They suggest that the woman thought (mistakenly) that she had given birth to the incarnate Lord, the Messiah who would bruise the Serpent’s head. This fanciful suggestion is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen 3:15 (see the note there on the word “heel”).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Followup on Luke 1:75; Ephesians 4:24

I've had a chance to research the issue of the word order for Luke 1:75 and Ephesians 4:24:

Ellicott's Commentary: In holiness and righteousness.—The same combination is found, though in an inverted order, in Ephesians 4:24. “Holiness” has special reference to man’s relations to God; “justice” to those which connect him with his fellow men; but, like all such words, they more or less overlap.

Expositor's GT: Luke 1:75. ὁσιότητι: the Godward, religious aspect of conduct (Ephesians 4:24).—δικαιοσύνῃ: the manward, ethical aspect.

Cambridge Bible: 75. In holiness] towards God,

and righteousness] towards men. We have the same words contrasted in 1 Thessalonians 2:10, “how holily and righteously;” Ephesians 4:24, “in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ὅσιος, ‘holy,’ is the Hebrew Châsîd, whence the ‘Chasidîm’ (Pharisees); and δίκαιος the Hebrew Tsaddik, whence ‘Sadducees.’

Bengel's Gnomon: Luke 1:75. Ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ, in holiness and righteousness) The same combination of words occurs, Ephesians 4:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:10. Righteousness expresses conformity to the law: holiness, conformity to nature.—πάσας) on every day [all the several days]: Hebrews 2:15.

Vincent's WS: Hence ὁσιότης is concerned primarily with the eternal laws of God. It is "the divine consecration and inner truth of righteousness" (Meyer). Throughout the New Testament its look is godward. In no case is it used of moral excellence as related to men, though it is to be carefully noted that δικαιοσύνη, righteousness, is not restricted to rightness toward men. Compare Ephesians 4:24; true holiness; literally, holiness of the truth.

Christmas and Sun Worship

Looking back at Grecian philosophical and mythological history, we find that the Presocratic philosophers were keenly interested in finding which substance constitutes the primordial cosmic substrate. Thales posited water as the ARXH of the universe, while Pythagoras asserted it was numbers; on the other hand, Heraclitus felt that fire was the primeval substance that was the ever-changing and governing force of the cosmos. "Everything is in a state of flux," Heraclitus is often quoted as stating. This "flux" consisted of fire and the "strife of opposites." In this way, Heraclitus accounted for all of the diversity manifest in nature. Certain scholars have called Heraclitus a "fire priest," indicating that he worshiped or at least reverenced the sun. While not every classicist will agree, I think there is some merit to this view and there might be evidence that the Presocratics were also prototypical theologians who were endeavoring to formulate a primitive doctrine of God (as they understood him). Now the significant point to note is that Heraclitus and other early thinkers may have participated in a rudimentary form of sun worship: this point is also evidenced by the myths written about Apollo, Helios, and Hyperion.

One excellent source that I have found for dealing with the history of Greek religion is Gilbert Murray's Five Stages of Greek Religion. On p. 134 of this invaluable reference work, Murray writes that worship of the Sun is implicit, "if not explicit," in a number of ancient Greek documents. It is "idealized by Plato in the Republic, where the Sun is the author of all good light and life in the material world, as the Idea of the Good is in the ideal world. This worship came gradually into contact with the traditional and definite Sun-worship of Persia. The final combination took place curiously late. It was the Roman conquests of Cilicia, Cappadocia, Commagene, and Armenia that gave the decisive moment. To men who had wearied of the myths of the poets, who could draw no more inspiration from their Apollo and Hyperion, but still had the habits and the craving left by their old Gods, a fresh breath of reality came with the entrance of HLIOS ANIKHTOS MIQRAS, 'Mithras, the Unconquered Sun.' But long before the triumph of Mithraism as the military religion of the Roman Frontier, Greek literature is permeated with a kind of intense language about the Sun, which seems derived from Plato"(Murray 134).

Will Durant also provides this information: "In 354 [This date may be off. Others have calculated the time at circa 332 C.E.] some Western churches, including those of Rome, commemorated the birth of Christ on December 25; this was then erroneously calculated as the winter solstice, on which the days begin to lengthen; it was already the central festival of Mithraism, the NATALIS INVICTI SOLIS, or birthday of the unconquered sun" (Caesar and Christ 558).

So I would trace the potential development of Christmas from Greece through Persia to Rome.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Comparison Between Luke 1:75 and Ephesians 4:24

Something I noticed last night that others might have seen before, but it was interesting to me:

Luke 1:75: ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ

Ephesians 4:24: ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

The genitive phrase is different in Ephesians, which Luke does not add, but notice the order of ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ in the two writers.

1 Timothy 2:5 (KJV)

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5, KJV).

εἷς γὰρ Θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης Θεοῦ καὶ ἄνθρωπων ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς (Scrivener's Textus Receptus 1894)

No article with ἄνθρωπος, yet KJV renders the word with a definite semantic for some reason.

I've since found out there's a question about ἄνθρωπος being the subject or predicate of the construction. So the choice to translate with "the man" seems to be grammatical and not for other reasons. The common strategy is to render the verse in this way: "a human" (ISV), "himself man" (ERV, Weymouth) or "himself human" (NET Bible). However, if ἄνθρωπος is not the subject, then the noun should not be rendered "the man."

Here is the explanation given by The Pulpit Commentary:

Even supposing that the exact construction of the sentence requires "Christ Jesus" to be taken as the subject and "man" as the predicate, the English way of expressing that sense is to say, "the man Christ Jesus." But it is very far from certain that ἄνθρωπος, standing as it does in opposition to Θεός, is not the subject, and must not therefore be rendered "the man."

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

John 3:3-5, Baptism and a Question Regarding Titus 3:5

Written 6/25/200; edited 1/11/2018.

Jesus and his disciples practiced baptism, and baptism appears to be what is described by ὕδατος in John 3:5. But John adds πνεύματος in 3:5 and the preposition ἐξ that evidently controls both substantives (ἐξ ὕδατος KAI πνεύματος) which are apparently linked with the "birthing" process--an indication that spiritual rebirth or being born "from above," while it does involve water baptism is possibly not exhausted by water baptism (John 3:5 may indeed be a candidate for hendiadys or at the very least, water and spirit are intimately connected although I do not think the KAI in 3:5 is necessarily epexegetical). Now I am not saying that this is what every advocate of the baptism approach to John 3:3-5 is positing: just wanted to show where I stand on this issue.

Another question I have concerns Titus 3:5. In times of Christian antiquity, this verse was often construed as a proof for the necessity and nature of baptism. But I've never quite been able to understand how Titus 3:5 has anything to do with water immersion. What indicators from the NT itself support this interpretation?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

John 3:3 and Spiritual Rebirth

Greek for John 3:3: ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, ἐὰν μή τις γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, οὐ δύναται ἰδεῖν τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ.

One verb that John uses in 3:3 is γεννηθῇ (aorist subjunctive passive) coupled with the adverb ἄνωθεν (evidently meaning "born from above" or "born again"). But when I research γεννάω alone, I have yet to find a place in Scripture where that verb itself means "rebirth" or "regeneration." Of course, one could argue that γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν possibly conveys the sense of "regeneration" and maybe this much is true. In fact, Peter's words at 1 Peter 1:3, 23 evidently deal with the same process that John does in his Gospel. And in his first Epistle, Peter does refer to a "new birth" or new begettal.

So if one wants to call spiritual rebirth "regeneration," maybe there's nothing wrong with using that kind of terminology to describe the marvelous divine process delineated in John 3:3ff. But it could be more appropriate to call divine justification, "regeneration." Compare Titus 3:5-6.

Monday, January 08, 2018

More Notes on Gnosticism: The Fathers and the Demise of Gnosis

Gnosticism influenced the dualistic philosophy of Docetism. See Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion, trans. Robert M. Wilson (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983), 372. Countering Docetism, Irenaeus writes about Christ: "Fasting forty days, like Moses and Elias, He afterwards hungered, first, in order that we may perceive that He was a real and substantial man -- for it belongs to a man to suffer hunger when fasting; and secondly, that His opponent might have an opportunity of attacking Him" (Adv Haer 5.21.2).

Irenaeus likewise castigates the numerological tendencies of the Gnostics, observing: "Moreover, they possess no proof of their system, which has but recently been invented by them, sometimes resting upon certain numbers, sometimes on syllables, and sometimes, again, on names; and there are occasions, too, when, by means of those letters which are contained in letters, by parables not properly interpreted, or by certain [baseless] conjectures, they strive to establish that fabulous account which they have devised” (Ibid. 2.28.8).

However one defines the term "Christianity," una voce, believers of all stripes can no doubt agree with what Paul Tillich points out regarding Gnosticism: "If Christian theology had succumbed to this [Gnostic] temptation, the particular character of Christianity would have been lost. Its unique basis in the person of Jesus would have become meaningless." See Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, 36. But orthodox theologians of the church offered a successful riposte to the Gnostic challenge. These ecclesiastical polemicists "fought against gnosticism [sic] and expelled it from the church." (Ibid. 37.) In this way, the regula fidei, which the apostles supposedly transmitted to their successors, was purportedly saved.

Deceptive Power of Riches/Deceptive Power of Sin?

Deceptive power of riches-Matthew 13:22: ὁ δὲ εἰς τὰς ἀκάνθας σπαρείς, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ τὸν λόγον ἀκούων καὶ ἡ μέριμνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ἀπάτη τοῦ πλούτου συνπνίγει τὸν λόγον, καὶ ἄκαρπος γίνεται.

Study Bible NWT-Or "the seductiveness (deceptive pleasure) of being wealthy."

Compare Mark 4:19

deceptive power of sin See Hebrews 3:12-13.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Some Recommended Works for the Study of Gnosticism

Brown, H. O. J. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998

Burgess, S. M. The Holy Spirit: Ancient Christian Traditions. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1984.

Frend, W. H. C. The Rise of Christianity. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984.

Grant, R. M. Gnosticism and Christianity. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Green, Henry A. The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.

Jonas, H. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. Boston: Bacon Press, 1963.

Pagels, E. Gnostic Gospels. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979.

Riemer, R. Gnosis and Faith in Early Christianity. London: SCM Press, 1999

Rudolph, K. Gnosis: The Nature and History of an Ancient Religion. Translated by Robert M. Wilson. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1983.

The work which was originally a dissertation produced in 1985 by Henry A. Green entitled The Economic and Social Origins of Gnosticism is quite helpful and approaches the socio-religious phenomenon of Gnosticism from a socio-economic point of view. Green is quite methodological and thorough in his book, offering insights that will probably not be found elsewhere. His study, as he writes, "should be regarded as a pilot study, an attempt to apply social-scientific paradigms to the examination of ancient religions, and specifically Gnosticism" (p. 18).

You may also remember me saying that ancient Gnostics usually were libertines or ascetics. Some went for the gusto while others abstained from certain foods, drink and they lived celibate lives. For these thinkers, the world of matter was thought to be evil, alienated from God, and produced by intermediate aeons.

Revelation 17:6-8 and Astonishment/Wonder

καὶ εἶδον τὴν γυναῖκα μεθύουσαν ἐκ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ἐκ τοῦ αἵματος τῶν μαρτύρων Ἰησοῦ. Καὶ ἐθαύμασα ἰδὼν αὐτὴν θαῦμα μέγα· (Revelation 17:6)

καὶ εἶπέν μοι ὁ ἄγγελος Διὰ τί ἐθαύμασας; ἐγὼ ἐρῶ σοι τὸ μυστήριον τῆς γυναικὸς καὶ τοῦ θηρίου τοῦ βαστάζοντος αὐτήν, τοῦ ἔχοντος τὰς ἑπτὰ κεφαλὰς καὶ τὰ δέκα κέρατα· (17:7)

τὸ θηρίον ὃ εἶδες ἦν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν, καὶ μέλλει ἀναβαίνειν ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου, καὶ εἰς ἀπώλειαν ὑπάγει· καὶ θαυμασθήσονται οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ὧν οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα ἐπὶ τὸ βιβλίον τῆς ζωῆς ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, βλεπόντων τὸ θηρίον ὅτι ἦν καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν καὶ πάρεσται. (17:8)

In the aforementioned verses, I want to emphasize the astonishment/wonder aspect. Why did John use this kind of language? Is it typical of GNT writers? These are questions I would like to explore since the verb θαυμάζω has such an interesting history in secular Greek. For a book like Revelation, the verbs "wonder" or "marvel" are appropriate.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Philippians 4:6-7 (NWT)

It is vain to criticize the NWT rendering of Phil 4:6-7: "and the peace of God that excels all thought." The 2013 revision states: "and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding . . ."

While Ralph Earle thinks the "correct translation" of hUPEREXW in 4:7 is "surpasses" (NASB) or "transcends" (NIV), he also writes that the word (according to G. Abbott-Smith's Lexicon) means: "rise above, surpass, excell" (page 848). So, as a literal translation, the NWT seemingly cannot be faulted in this area.

Some critics may also wish to castigate the wording, "thought" for Phil. 4:7. The Greek word used is NOUN. BDAG shows that the lexical form NOUS may refer to a "result of thinking, mind, thought, opinion, decree." But it lists Phil. 4:7 under 1b. (understanding, mind) and makes this comment: "Of the peace of God hH hUPEREXOUSA PANTA N[OUN]. which surpasses all power of thought Phil 4:7."

While the NWT uses "thought" in the translation, it does not seem that we can rightly denigrate NWT here. From past publications of the WTS, the word "thought" for Phil. 4:7 is best understood (in my opinion) as "human understanding." In other words, Jehovah's Witnesses have traditionally stated that the peace of God surpasses all human understanding--especially the comprehension of those who do not have such peace.

Moises Silva provides this example from Chrysostom, who feels that Phil. 4:7 refers to "that which our mind is not able to understand":


The word "thought" can refer to our faculty of thinking or power of reasoning in English. Thus I fail to see the problem some NWT critics have brought up respecting the 1984 rendering of Phil. 4:7.